The ‘safety’ paradox, Sengar convicted, ‘Rape in India’ controversy

The 17 December edition of Note This — our weekly round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

Asavari Singh
Published in
6 min readDec 17, 2019


‘Safety is a very problematic word for me,’ says Madhavi Menon. Photo: Media Studies/Ashoka University

“Safety, in my mind, has become a very oppressive category, and I don’t want anything to do with it,” says noted author and academic Madhavi Menon in a wide-ranging interview with NewsTracker’s Zinnia Sengupta. In this two-part series she also speaks about about the temporal relations between desire and violence, the intersectionality of news media, capital punishment, and the roles of law and literature in mediating sexual violence. Read part 1 and part 2.

Editor’s pick

The Delhi gang-rape of 2012 and the manner in which it was reported by the media led to four major systemic changes in India, and also left a “ripple of reform” in the lives of Indians, writes Arkadev Ghoshal in NewsTracker.

Across India: News since last Tuesday

Rahul Gandhi has made headlines for his comments on rape in India. Photo: BMN Network/Flickr

Former Congress party president Rahul Gandhi has been in the news for much of the week because of his remark at a poll rally that the BJP’s Make in India slogan should be changed to “rape in India”, and his refusal to apologise for it. The Election Commission is now looking into the BJP’s allegation that he used “rape as a political tool”. Meanwhile, the Congress has filed a breach of privilege motion against Union Minister Smriti Irani for her claim in the Lok Sabha last week that Gandhi was giving a “clarion call to rape women in India”.

Incidentally, a report released by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) last week said that the BJP has the highest number of lawmakers (21) facing cases of violence against women, followed by the Congress (16).

Kuldeep Sengar convicted

Former BJP legislator from Unnao Kuldeep Singh Sengar reportedly broke down “in tears” when a Delhi court found him guilty of raping a minor girl in 2017. District judge Dharmesh Sharma said in his order that the testimony of the victim was “powerful and unblemished”, and criticised the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for its “patriarchal approach” to the high-profile case.

The victim, however, is not exactly jubilant. She is reportedly “upset” that co-accused Shashi Singh was acquitted, and has said that she will not feel safe until Sengar is “hanged”. Sengar will likely be sentenced on December 20.

#MeToo: ‘Patriarchy in courtrooms’

Last week, during the course of the defamation trial of Priya Ramani (the first of many women to publicly accuse former newspaper editor and Union minister MJ Akbar of sexual harassment) it was widely reported Akbar’s team of lawyers sniggered and laughed while journalist Ghazala Wahab testified about being sexually harassed by him. Later, upon the request of Akbar’s lawyer, the judge told the media to refrain from making “personal remarks” about the counsel and their conduct.

This entire episode is an example of “how women must battle patriarchy in courtrooms too”, writes Nilanjana Bhowmick in Firstpost. She notes the majority of news stories on these courtroom events were “examples of descriptive, who-said-what journalism” and that “none of these reports editorialised the conduct of the defense counsels”. She also makes a case for reporters being allowed to “reproduce court proceedings verbatim, including the conduct of lawyers” who seek to silence sexual harassment/assault victims.

‘Disha’ Bill

Weeks after the brutal gang-rape and murder of a vet (now known as ‘Disha’) in Hyderabad, the Andhra Pradesh cabinet has cleared the Disha Bill, 2019, which proposes awarding the death penalty for rape, concluding investigations in a week, and wrapping up trials within 21 days, among other things.However, according to legal experts quoted in Huffpost India, these deadlines are unrealistic and will only “worsen” things in a country where conviction rates are already abysmal. The National Commission for Women (NCW) has also criticised the Bill for being “unrealistic” and populist and not taking into account a shortage of judges.

Seven years on…

Seven years after the 16 December 2012 gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in a Delhi bus, “arrangements for the execution” of four convicts are reportedly being made in Tihar Jail. Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous media reports speculating about who the executioner might be, as well as dozens of stories about ‘volunteers’ for the job, including a “decorated” policeman from Tamil Nadu, international shooter Vartika Singh (who ‘applied’ for the job in a letter purportedly written in blood), and about 15 other citizens and NRIs.

The seven-year anniversary of the crime has also come with media reports on the families of the convicts and articles on how despite harsher laws the conviction rate for crimes against women remains low and that the police force continues to suffer from a shortage of women personnel.

Hyderabad encounter and ‘national paranoia’

In ‘Modi 2.0 and the State of National Paranoia’, historian Partha Chatterjee ties three recent controversial political events (including the abrogation of Article 370 and India’s new citizenship law) to the ‘police encounter’ killings of four suspected rapists in Hyderabad, and explains why they are all indicative of a “national state of paranoia”.

Instagram ‘fans’ gang-rape man

In Mumbai, a 22-year-old man was reportedly gang-raped by four of his ‘followers’ on Instagram. According to the Hindustan Times, the men figured out where the man was from a photo on his Instagram page and arrived at the location, where they accosted him. Three of the four suspects have been arrested, while the fourth, a minor, has been sent to a juvenile home.

Survivor voices

In ‘For rape survivors, the nightmare rarely ends’, Ankita Dwivedi Johri of the Indian Express visits a counselling centre in Dewas to hear from survivors, doctors and the police about what happens in the aftermath of sexual assault.

In a series of podcasts on Child Sexual Abuse, the Quint shares the stories of adult survivors, in their own words and in their own voices. Hear episode 1 and episode 2.

Rape in culture: Mardaani 2

Starring Rani Mukerji as a cop on the hunt for a serial rapist, Mardaani 2 has generated a lot of buzz for tackling the themes of sexual assault, gender discrimination and justice. While the film has been favourably reviewed for its performances and as a gripping thriller, it has been criticised for resorting to Bollywood’s long-favoured themes of mob justice (made more chilling in the aftermath of the recent Hyderabad ‘encounter’) and for its truncated treatment of the “gender debate”. Other reviewers, however, have praised the film for channelling the “angst and anger of the nation”, even if this takes the form of vigilantism.

Read more

This roundup is curated from the RSS feeds of more than 30 English news publications from across India.

See the full list of rape and sexual violence cases reported this week and earlier on our web tool, NewsTracker Data. Use our search function or select one of our boards (such as #MeToo, #KeralaPriest, or #PoliticsofRape) to read reports on specific cases and/or themes.

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Asavari Singh

Editor and former journalist, with a special interest in gender in the media and psychology. Editor at